Foo Fighters Review

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There's only a handful of rock bands on this planet that can fill stadiums after 20 years of recording and touring together. There's even a smaller number of bands from that handful that can entertain and captivate a packed stadium for 2.5 hours. There's no doubting that the Foo Fighters are in that handful.

On a steamy evening in late February, a reported 57,000 people crammed themselves into Melbourne's Etihad Stadium to see Dave Grohl and his band rip through some of the most endearing tunes in modern rock (plus some excellent classic rock covers).

Kicking off proceedings with the slow burning "Something from Nothing" which rolled into "The Pretender" the evening was off to a rocking start. The crowd singing along to each and every chorus and verse as their collective voice filled the packed stadium.

The setlist was nothing but non-stop hits, spanning across all their albums. Even the much derided "Wheels", which according to the Foos frontman is only liked in Germany but he played it anyway.

Just as the crowd began to get their fill of Foo Fighters songs, the rock quintet busted out covers of "Detroit Rock City", "Stay With Me" and a rollicking "Let There Be Rock". Not even a mid-show marriage proposal could slow the momentum. ("Now get the fuck off my stage" - Dave).

The night reaching its rock n roll zenith with their biggest hit "Best of You". The crowd singing so loud and with so much energy that you'd swear they had blown the roof off the enclosed stadium.

But, all good things must come to an end and so did the biggest show the Foo Fighters had ever put on in Australia, closing the night with arguably their best song, Everlong. As the crush of people made their way back onto the rain soaked concourse, there was no doubting they had just witnessed one of the best rock shows of their life.

Soundwave Melbourne Review

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Day One

After last minute band cancellations and a public transport fiasco, the day of the Melbourne leg of Australia's loudest travelling festival had finally arrived. Amid concerns of how people would be able to arrive and get inside the gates in a timely manner, those that arrived early in the day had a seamless, yet very hot, entry into the two-day festival.

Melbourne's own noisemakers, I, Valiance was the first of the Aussie contingent on the lineup, opening up Stage 1. From the first brutal riff, they had complete control over those who opted to check them out. One to watch closely.

Finnish legends, Apocalyptica followed on Stage 2 and it's hard to believe that four cellos can be played in a way to sound so heavy! Even more impressive was their cover of Advance Australia Fair!!

As the mercury rose, so did the noise level. Over on Stage 4 was the live debut of supergroup, Killer Be Killed. Made up of members from Dillinger Escape Plan, Sepultura, Mastodon and the Mars Volta, they are a band that true believers did not want to miss. They did not disappoint and their one hour set was over far too soon.

As the sun began to slowly descend on the Melbourne Showgrounds, the frenetic skate-punk riffage of Millencolin filled the air around Stage Four. While most bands that have a few albums under the belt can find it difficult to keep the crowd energised while playing new and untried tracks, the Swedes had no such problems. With their new album,'True Brew' out in April, Millencolin's setlist was littered with fresh cuts that kept the crowd screaming for more.

Back on Stage One, every parent's nightmare materialised as Marilyn Manson swaggered with an aura only reserved for rock gods. Opening the set with 'Deep Six' from his new album, The Pale Emperor, Manson proceeded to blast through nearly two decades of hits. Hard to dismiss his cover of 'Personal Jesus' as a highlight.

A band that was all highlight (except for a few technical glitches) was back in Australia for only the fourth time since 1969. Judas Priest rocked Stage Four like a band possessed. Perhaps that's the reason frontman Rob Halford kept the leathers on for the entirety of their set.

Closing Stage Four was Billy Corgan and his hired Pumpkins. Unlike Millencolin earlier in the day, Corgan's introduction of new songs was met with collective groans. There's no doubt that they're great songs and the accompanying light show made for an incredible end to the night.

Day Two

What kind of self respecting metal-head is up before 9 AM on a Sunday? Especially after a long day of headbanging and moshing the previous day! The kind that have another long day of headbanging and moshing ahead of them. So begins round 2 of Soundwave, where the feeling of deja vu is so chunky you can carve it!!

The morning kicks off on Stage 1 to the sounds of horns and guitars from Melbourne ska-punk legends, Area 7. Showing no signs of age, despite 20 years together, they energetically blasted through classics 'No Logic', 'Bitter Words' and their biggest hit 'Second Class Citizen'. Over on Stage 4, the five degenerates collectively known as King Parrot blew out the cobwebs from many a hungover punter. Their particular brand of extreme metal drew a large crowd of the diehards and the curious so early in the day. The clear highlight of their set was the massive wall of death that involved frontman/lunatic, Youngy.

UK five piece, The Treatment braved the sweltering boiler room that was Stage 5, dressed in leather. Missing their connecting flight to Adelaide, the boys had a point to prove and there was no doubting their rock cred at the end of their 40 minute set.

The Bennies brought their self described "psychedelic reggae ska doom metal punk rock from hell to Stage 4. Their incredibly fun, high-energy set went all the way 10 from the very start and had the crowd singing along to every word.

No doubt that one of the biggest drawcards of the day was the hilariously offensive yet follically blessed, Steel Panther. Treading a very fine line between obscene and entertaining can be difficult but the leopard print spandex-clad quartet somehow manage to pull it off easily. Despite obviously being a comedy routine, their musicianship shines through which makes makes the jokes easier to swallow.

As the sun began to set on an incredible weekend, legendary industrial outfit Ministry drew dedicated rivet-heads to Stage 4. Still maintaining the political outrage after three decades, frontman Al Jourgensen stalks across the stage with the energy of a man of a much lesser age. Even throwing himself to the pit of sweaty bodies at the conclusion of their set.

Back at the main stages, the uncompromising Soundgarden lay waste to all in front of them. Completely mesmerising the crowd from the get go, Chris Cornell's impossibly superhuman vocals and the inhuman screeches and wails from Kim Thayil's guitar flawlessly mixed on old tunes (Hunted Down), deep cuts (Birth Ritual) and fresh tracks (Been Away Too Long).

As the Seattle legend's set comes to an epic close, it's hard to ignore the white drapes and bunches of flowers over on Stage 1. With the sun finally gone, alt-rock legends Faith No More take the stage, all decked out in white to match the drapes. The ongoing theme of the weekend seems to be old bands playing new material and Faith No More are no different. Quirky new track "Motherfucker" starts with a droning,ominous chant that bursts into a bombastic chorus that everyone sings along to because swearing at the top of your lungs is fun.

One thing that really sets Mike Patton and his band of merry mad men apart from most bands is their particular brand of oddball humour. At one point, Patton asks a Soundwave worker to spray him with the hose being used to keep the crowd cool. "Was it good for you?" Patton quips.

True to their eclectic nature, Faith No More play their biggest hits "Epic" and "Midlife Crisis" in the middle of their set. The crowd was just happy to sing along and soak in what was becoming a great night. The end of the set comes too soon, with one of the final songs being a sarcasm-soaked cover of the Bee Gees classic "I Started A Joke". It's great to have them back!!

Then the night is over and so is the Melbourne leg of Soundwave 2015. A full weekend of screeching guitars, thudding basslines and pounding kick-drums really does take it's toll on a person but as always, it's worth it. Whether the two day format remains for 2016 is unlikely but in any case, it can't return fast enough!!

British India Controls Bendigo

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Black Swan nightclub transformed into an altar of sweaty garage rock for one typically chilly Spring night in Bendigo. Of course, as nightclubs tend to, the place isn't banging until after midnight so it seemed fitting that British India didn't take to the stage until it was technically Sunday morning. The time didn't bother the eager crowd too much. One punter was so eager (and drunk) that he hassled the roadie until he was politely escorted off the premises by security. Ouch!

The Melbourne four piece awkwardly manoeuvred their way through the crowd to the awaiting stage and eased into first gear with "March Into The Ocean", then really fired things up with "This Dance is Loaded" and "Safari", both odes written to dance your arse off to. Then came a track off their new LP, "Controller". A more mature sound from the Melbourne boys, "Blinded" is a little deeper than just parties and girls.

The setlist continued to be a mix of the old ("Run the Red Light", "You Will Die and I Will Take Over", "God Is Dead") and new tracks like the sensational "Plastic Souvenirs", complete with singalong chorus which the early morning crowd sang with great gusto. Showing off their punk rock roots, a fantastic surprise cover of Green Day's "Brain Stew" came towards the end of the show. With a swig of his beer, frontman Declan Melia thanked the Bendigo crowd for sticking around so late and promised that their tour manager would shout the bar in appreciation (Woo!!)

The set closed with the sublime Triple J favourite "I Can Make You Love Me" and was rounded out with the nice and sweary "This Ain't No Fucking Disco" getting the crowd nice and rowdy for one more time. Until that night, British India hadn't played Bendigo since the 2010 edition of regional festival "Groovin' The Moo". Let's hope we don't have to wait that long again.
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It's been a long six years since the Queens last convened to put out 2007's Era Vulgaris, the longest gap in-between albums for the band. To say that the lead up to Queens of the Stone Age's sixth album was rough is an understatement. A routine knee surgery for Queens head honcho Josh Homme that went so far south to the point of near death on the operating table. He spent the following four months recuperating and bedridden, sending Homme into a dark vortex of depression.

However, from the darkness comes light, so does QotSA's sixth long-player ...Like Clockwork. This is not your typical peyote-laced trip through the desert; this is ten songs documenting a long road out of hell for Homme. And the road can be as bleak as fuck at times. "I'm alive - hooray" he laments on piano-driven ballad "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" alluding to how Homme felt during his four month incapacitation while recovering from his near fatal surgery. But it's on penultimate track "I Appear Missing" that the desolation of it all really hits home. A gut wrenching punch is landed with the first verse, Homme croons "Calling all comas/Prisoner on the loose/Description: A spitting image of me/Except for the heart-shaped hole where the hope runs out" over some seriously sublime guitar lines. Bloody hell!!

You'd be foolish to think that it's all sad bastard songs though. This is a band that revels in dirty rock n roll swagger as much as the emotional introspective and it doesn't get any more hedonistic on the funky stomper "Smooth Sailing". Iggy Pop wishes he could steal a line as classic as "I blow my load all over the status quo".

While it isn't as heavy as previous QotSA albums ...Like Clockwork is definitely the most mature album they've done to date.  Perhaps a stint on the sidelines is just what the doctor ordered for Queens, with Homme's versatility as a songwriter reaching a new height here. The much publicised and sometimes surprising guest appearances are mostly understated with barely a line from Trent Reznor or Nick Oliveri. The main guest contributors being Dave Grohl (drums on half of the tracks) and Sir Elton John's piano work and backup vocals on the standout track "Fairweather Friends". 

With Josh teasing that with such a cathartic album out of the way, their next album may not too far off. Where Homme and Co take us with it would be nothing short of a wild guess. But it's guaranteed it's going to be tough to live up to such a brilliant fucking rock album.
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Wolfmother Rocks The Vine

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Bendigo doesn't see too many big Australian bands outside of the annual Groovin' The Moo festival. Sure, we've played host to Silverchair, Powderfinger and The Living End in the past but it's been a few years between drinks for this part of the world. So it came as a surprise to be woken last Friday to the news that Grammy award winning neo-psychedelic rockers, Wolfmother, were on the road to Sydney and were stopping by our sleepy burg that night.

I'd seen these guys two and a half times in the past (half because I'd bought a ticket to see them play at Kryal Castle in Ballarat but couldn't make it through the support act because of a severe hangover) and was severely burnt after their lacklustre performance at Big Day Out 2012. A voice in my head screamed at me to go for the simple reason that an intimate gig by an international act in this town just doesn't happen.

Thinking that I'd be one of a select few that wanted to see Andrew Stockdale and his hired guns, I figured turning up an hour before the scheduled appearance left plenty of time to see the support acts and acclimatise to the atmosphere inside the Golden Vine. Imagine my surprise when I was left out in the cold, waiting for someone to leave the packed house. When I was eventually let in the line stretched to the end of the block.

A swift beer and twenty minutes later, Stockdale and co appeared on what could have been the tiniest stage they've appeared on in ten years to rapturous applause. Instead of absorbing too much of the atmosphere, the band blazed straight into blues-rock fury of Dimension. Not making much room for small talk Stockdale and troops belted out a few new ones, Long Way To Go and Keep Moving. The latter would have to be a reference to vocalist Stockdale's desire to forge a new life under his own name instead of the Wolfmother moniker. These new songs are straightforward three-and-a-half-minute rockers, readymade for commercial rock radio. That's definitely not a dig at the songs, they're fucking brilliant!

The remaining sixty minutes is lost in a neo-retro fuzz. They play Love Train, Apple Tree and New Moon Rising. By now, the Friday night punters are going mental and the crowd surfers are out in force. By the time set closer Vagabond was played, Stockdale had them eating out of his hand, even dishing out high fives to the first few rows. 

There's no denying that Wolfmother has always worn their influences on their tie-dyed sleeves, harking back to 70's monoliths that are Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. They've always had their detractors because of that, but Wolfmother have always strove to build their own creative path, even if it's not far from the source.

Rounding out the night was The Joker and The Thief, sending the venue on a psychedelic sonic rocket into the stratosphere. If this tour is the start of Andrew Stockdale's long climb back to the top of the rock n roll mountain, then the two hundred people that turned up to a small pub on a cold night in Bendigo would have left the building very happy to be at the beer soaked base camp.
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I'm a fairly old school kinda guy. I prefer books and newspapers over Android tablets. Vinyl over iTunes. Heck, some of my favourite bands rose then fell before I was even born. For that reason, I've always wanted to travel back in time. Not to change events of a time gone by. I just want to see some awesome bands rocking out in their prime. How awesome would it have been to see Nirvana when Seattle was the centre of the music universe? Seeing Motley Crue at a sold out Whiskey A Go-Go? The Clash? Led Zeppelin? I could go on all night.

The closest thing punters like me can get are reformed bands that should never have reformed in the first place or the ones that manage to perform a minor musical miracle and equal or even better expectations.

Luckily, Black Sabbath falls into the latter category. After much rumour and hype, Ozzy, Tony and co announced late 2011 that the old band was getting back together for a new album. Tours were announced soon after. I was hesitant, having been recently been burned by a less than impressive Motley Crue but as the saying goes, you buy the ticket you take the ride.

My initial worries melted as soon as guitarist Tony Iommi strummed the opening chords to the anti-war anthem "War Pigs". We may have become accustomed to Ozzy speaking like a man that has been battling drug and alcohol addictions for 40 years since we watched The Osbournes but the reality is that he has lost nothing in the pipes. Ozzy fucking Osbourne sounds just like I wanted him to.

The band was tight, sounding heavier and more sinister in real life than their records. Ozzy, Tony and bassist Geezer Butler have played together for years but it was surprising how well whipper snapper drummer Tommy Clufetos played catch up. He's been playing in Ozzy's solo band for years and would know most of the material but still managed to slot into the experienced Sabbath unit with ease. While Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilk plays drum on upcoming album 13, Clufetos replaces Bill Ward who was controversially axed before the band played UK's Download Festival last year.

The setlist was mostly made up from the Black Sabbath's first two albums, (Black Sabbath and Paranoid) but they play the lesser known "Snowblind" and "Dirty Women" as well as three cuts off the new album. "Loner" and "End of the Beginning" were received to polite applause while the first single "God is Dead?" was better received by the mid-week Melbourne crowd. The new songs are classic Sabbath and could well have been accidentally left off their seminal album Paranoid.

Black Sabbath rounded off the night the only way they could: "Paranoid"! There's nothing better than an army of metal heads belting out "Can you help me, occupy my brain?" As the band took their final bow, only one questioned remained; When the fuck will you guys be back? Ozzy must have picked up on that vibe. He responded that "we'll be back real soon." Bring it on!